Wednesday, November 6, 2013


I've been at Andersonville since Friday, arriving in one heck of a rainstorm. Of course it lasted through hooking up water and electric and oh-so-miraculously stopped once I was soaked and everything was up and running.

Andersonville is separated into a couple of different areas. One is the prison site, the 26 1/2 acres the prison was eventually enlarged to, and the other is the National Cemetery where veterans from too many wars are laid to rest. There is also a National Prisoner of War museum in the visitor center. It's grim, as you might expect.

The prison site at Andersonville reminds me a bit of Gettysburg - it is wide open space dotted with memorials placed by grieving states. It also has reconstructions of a couple walls of the prison stockade, including the north gate through which all prisoners entered. Over the weekend I got out early to walk the grounds as the sun came up. There was frost on the ground and low fog softened the landscape.

This is a reconstruction of the North Gate. Prisoners entered the gate at the right, which closed behind them. Another gate was already closed in front of them so they were unable to see anything of what awaited them. Rising above the top of the stockade at the corner was a "pigeon roost," one of many guard posts or sentry boxes that were positioned at intervals around the perimeter. At ground level to the left of the stockade wall you can see a spindly fence. It is the Dead Line, erected 18 feet from the stockade wall to prevent escape. So much as touching the Dead Line would get a man shot.

This is near the bottomland of the prison site, through which a creek ran. One creek, one source of fresh water for 33000 men who would ultimately be held here at one time.

The structure was erected after the war by Andersonville survivors. It houses a spring which spontaneously burst from the ground after heavy rain, which the men called Providence Spring. The spring was inside the Dead Line but the prisoners found a way to divert its water so they could safely use it.

The obelisk is the Ohio monument. Just over the near horizon the top of the stockade wall can be seen.

If you've ever been to Gettysburg you may know what I'm talking about when I say hallowed ground. The same feeling comes from this place where 45000 men passed through in one way or another in its 14 months of operation, and where nearly 13000 men, 29% of its population, died. It's a sad, ugly part of our history.

Thought of the day:

I have read in my earlier years about prisoners in the revolutionary war, and other wars. It sounded noble and heroic to be a prisoner of war, and accounts of their adventures were quite romantic; but the romance has been knocked out of the prisoner of war business, higher than a kite. It's a fraud. (John L. Ransom, from his diary)